About a year ago, I was trying to convince my parents to get a chicken coop with a few hens. I was very persuasive. “You know? Eggs!“. But before I approached them with the idea, I did a bit of research. I was surprised to find that roosters weren’t allowed in their neighborhood unless they had a permit, and even the number of hens were limited. The reason? Chickens can be LOUD.
So, why are chickens so loud, and what can we do about it?
It’s normal for chickens to be loud because it’s how they communicate with their chicks and other chickens. Roosters and hens will also alarm when there is a predator nearby and casually cluck when they’re eating and socializing. When a chicken is quiet, it can usually mean something is wrong.
So, this is great and all, but how can you make sure your grumpy neighbor doesn’t complain? Are backyard chickens really that noisy? Do their noises mean anything? And is there any way to keep chickens a bit… quieter?
Are Backyard Chickens Noisy?
If you’re not out in the country, you probably have some neighbors within earshot. The bad news is that they might say something about your chickens and their clucking. The good news is that chickens aren’t usually as noisy as you might think. Let’s take a further look.
Almost all backyard chickens will be noisy, especially when they’re laying eggs or spot a predator nearby. While some breeds are quieter than others, anywhere from 10-50% of your chickens will be fairly loud. Fortunately, they’re not as loud as a barking dog, so most neighbors don’t complain about the noise.
When hens are younger, they’re still getting used to things such as their standing in the pecking order and laying eggs. During these times, they can be louder than normal. After about a month or so of adjusting, most hens will quiet down.
However, if their nest is being used or blocked, either by other hens or something else, they’ll become very vocal and complain. The agitation comes from their urge to lay an egg, but lacking access to their nest or a comfortable environment.
If the hen is forced to take a new nesting spot because of you or competition from other hens, they can stay vocal for a while until they become comfortable again.
But compared to hens, roosters make far more noise. The rooster’s infamous crow at 4am is one way it establishes its territory. This is why most urban and suburban areas ban them (some allow them, but you need a permit).
The overall consensus from many chicken owners is that a chicken’s noise level is fairly noisy, but nowhere near a barking dog. However, you might get the occasional problematic hen that makes loud and high-pitched calls.
Why Your Chickens Are So Noisy in the Morning
Usually, the loudest a chicken coop will be is in the early morning. Unfortunately for you and your neighbors, this is the most annoying time as it’s usually well before sunrise. So, why are chickens so noisy in the morning?
Chickens start making noise at dawn, and this usually includes a type of “good morning” to each other and excitement for their breakfast. Hens will also often lay their eggs in the morning and sing an “egg-song”. Additionally, chickens can get rowdy when they don’t get let out of their coop first thing in the morning.
Believe it or not, a hen’s social chatter is louder in the morning, and it’s usually interpreted by many homesteaders as a “good morning” to the other hens and to their caretaker.
However, much of the excitement and clucking in the mornings either comes from the expectation of food or the start of egg-laying and cluck in a way that many owners describe as the “egg-song”.
Lastly, if you slept in and are running late to let your chickens out, you can bet that they’ll give you an ear-full.
How to Stop Your Chickens From Being Noisy
It can get frustrating to constantly be woken up early or have your neighbors persistently complain about your chickens. So, how could you stop your chickens from being so noisy? Well, it’s a bit tricky. Here’s why.
Chickens shouldn’t be stopped from making noise as it’s their main form of communication. Without it, they wouldn’t be able to warn each other or you of predators. While young hens can be especially noisy in their first month of laying, they’ll become quieter as they mature and get settled in the pecking order.
After they figure out what to do during laying and settle in their rank in the pecking order, most hens will mellow over time. They’ll often get quieter after their first month of laying. Usually, this also means being less confused and anxious overall. Of course, this depends on the breed and individual hen.
It’s important to remember that almost no chicken is quiet. A good 10-50% of your chickens can be louder than the rest. Usually, the chicken higher up in the pecking order will be more vocal than others.
However, if you’re interested in having a quieter homestead or backyard, consider some of these quieter breeds of chickens:
- Barred rocks
- Rhode Island reds
- Isa Browns
Try to avoid training your chickens to be quieter as their instinctive noises will help them communicate and avoid danger. Understanding their calls will also help you identify the danger and what’s happening.
What Do Chicken Noises Mean?
Chicken noises can have a variety of meanings, ranging from alerting others of a predator to calling their chicks over when there’s food. Much of their communication comes in the form of clucks, growls, and alarms. Rarely, a chicken doesn’t make noise and it can be an indicator that something is wrong.
So, what do all of their noises mean? Well, many chicken owners have provided some input on what they’ve seen and experienced. Here’s a compilation of common chicken noises and meanings from many owners.
|Softer clicks and clucks||Happy clucking when foraging or dust bathing|
|“buck. buck. buck. bukaw!”||It’s egg-laying time! (Egg Song)|
|Loud clucks or growling and pecking||Competition from other hens when laying|
|High, shrill, and repetitive||Predator is nearby|
|Clucking or growling||Parenting their chicks (showing food or alerting about danger)|
|Soft, dull clicking||Food calling|
|Rooster – low, deep growls, Hens – no noise (unless trying to get away)||Mating calls|
|Growling or pecking||Threatened while brooding (either from you or other hens)|
|Rowdy in the morning, softer in the evenings||Casual coop chatter|
|Loud and repetitive call before bedtime and in the early morning||Rooster roosting|
As you can see, chickens have all sorts of different noises and meanings to them and it will take some time to practice interpreting them. Fortunately, most of the noises are pretty self-explanatory as the higher pitch and louder calls usually indicate a threat (other than when they growl during brooding).
The most important chicken noises to keep an ear out for are their predator call and brooding growl.
When a predator is near, chickens will often have a single noisy cluck and then stand upright to get a better view to confirm the threat. If their call starts to sound agitated, you should go investigate.
When they’re brooding, you should be aware of how close you’re getting to them. Hens can feel threatened when other hens or their caretaker gets too close to them when brooding. They’ll usually start with a growl and then potentially start pecking at the suspected threat. While you don’t have much to worry about, consider approaching laying hens calmly to reduce their stress.
The most common chicken noise you’ll probably hear is their egg-song. You’ll hear several “bucks” in a row and then occasionally a “bukaw!”. However, some hens are silent layers so don’t be surprised if they don’t make any noise while laying.
Hens also have their own language with their chicks. Some calls are to communicate for a separated chick (or one in danger) to run back to the mother hen. This is usually in the form of a growl.
Other calls for chicks will be to signal that there’s food available, which is communicated with happy clucking. It’s also thought that the hen’s noises from their egg-song and time brooding help the chick (still in the egg) identify the sound their mother hen makes. This could come in handy in the future if the chick gets lost or separated and needs to identify its mother.
One of the most surprising noises is that chickens can actually have a sort of “purr” when they’re at ease and relaxed. This usually isn’t when they’re brooding or laying.
If you find one or several of your chickens stop making noise all of the sudden, consider going out and checking on them.
If you’d like to see (and hear) these chicken calls in action, check out this cool video by English Country Life.
Most chickens will be noisy. It’s best to see this as a good thing since you’ll be able to pick up on some of their language and provide them what they need, helping to keep them out of harm’s way.
If your neighbors complain, try bribing them with some eggs. Who knows, they might build a higher tolerance to the clucking if they know how tasty fresh chicken eggs can be.
However, if you live in an urban or suburban area and you’re looking for livestock that’s small and not noisy, consider raising meat rabbits. They won’t make a peep and are very low-maintenance.